Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Stress Management

By Tess Thompson

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for stress management is based on the theory that it is not events that cause stress, but the manner in which they are perceived. Our reasoning, learning and perception determine cognition. These lead us to comprehend an event or circumstance in a particular way and are therefore responsible for directing our behaviors. Cognitive Behavior Therapy takes into account the assumptions and beliefs and their influence on individual reactions to stressful events. In a way, it is a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies and can be a very effective treatment for stress-related mood disorders and unpleasant feelings that disrupt a happy lifestyle.

CBT for managing stress attempts to influence negative emotions through a process of what is commonly known as ‘talk therapy’. Reactions are based on whether one views an event positively or negatively. There are people who see the positive side of events even when they realize that they have made a mistake. These people are positive about the event and take it as a challenge not to repeat the mistake, but rather learn from it. For such people, the mistake is merely an event that happened in the past from which they need to learn. However, there are others who make a mistake and then on realizing that a mistake has been made, mope around all the time, thinking that they are good for nothing. Such a habit on a continuous basis causes a large amount of stress, since negativity increases tension and stress. During a CBT examination, a professional is likely to try and establish a link between stressful events and the patient’s typical reaction.

The basic objective of the professional during a CBT lesson is to help the patient in identifying the link between the stress and the irrational emotions that one is feeling. CBT tries to unearth the real causes and biases for people. The professional tries to help you in recognizing the negative emotions that are debilitating, not conducive to adjustment, and serve no purpose.

The therapy itself is a long process that may take up to three months or more. Regular visits to a professional during the course of the CBT are essential. The initial sessions usually are comprised of questions and answers that help the professional in identifying the stress triggers. The professional then tries to understand the negative perceptions, assumptions and beliefs that are causing stress. The last few sessions are devoted to deliberation over the consequences of the stress. A strong attempt is made to show the patient that there is always a positive side of the coin. After the stressors and negative beliefs and emotions are fully comprehended and realization has dawned, the actual treatment of modifying daily behaviors and reframing of thought process starts.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy has strong evidence to showcase its efficacy for providing permanent stress relief although a periodic follow up is recommended to avoid a rare relapse. It is a recommended therapy for treatment of not only stress symptoms but also post traumatic disorders and clinical depression.


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